Wisconsin’s Historic Natural Resources Photos

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These images represent the changing face of Wisconsin’s natural resource agencies, their employees and customers, and the resources they preserve and protect. The photos span more than a century and were taken by photographers and other staff of the Wisconsin Conservation Department (1930s to 1960s) and Department of Natural Resources (1960s to present).

Traditional conservation duties were the focus of the early Conservation Department and the prevalence of those kinds of images reflects that emphasis. The agency began in 1885 with three fish wardens, and gradually grew with the addition of four game wardens (1887), a forestry department (1903) and a state park board (1907). Pollution control responsibilities were added in 1967 when Wisconsin’s executive branch was reorganized and the Department of Natural Resources was created by combining the Conservation Department with the Department of Resource Development.

Among these images you will find photos of anglers, hunters, trappers, campers, hikers, boaters, picnickers and rock climbers. You’ll find photos of the wardens who nabbed poachers, fish managers who raised and planted fish, wildlife managers who rescued starving deer and foresters who restored the Northwoods and put out the fires that threatened them. This collection is but a small portion of the photos cherished and protected over the years by agency staff. We are indebted to the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections for the opportunity to make them available to the public to whom they belong.